Japanese studios often make weird games. That’s the stereotype (that often proves itself true). Hyperdimension Neptunia: Producing Perfection is no different. Luckily, I can appreciate a weird game. Hyperdimension Neptunia: Producing Perfection is also part of the odd genre “Idol Sim”, so it’s clearly not to everyone’s tastes.
That said, this game knows its audience very well which really shines through.There’s fan-service throughout the Hyperdimension Neptunia series and Producing Perfection puts out, possibly moreso than the rest. This is crucial to remember when reviewing a game like this – I’m looking at it not just from my own perspective, but from the series or genre’s fan’s perspective. So essentially if you don’t like idol sims or fan-service, this is definitely not the game for you. Now I’ve got the “HOLY SHIT THIS GAME IS JAPANESE” warning out of the way, lets get stuck in.
Idol Sims are essentially games where you “look after” or help a character become a Japanese idol – so that’s pop star, model, celebrity, etc. To do this you manage their time, choosing their daily activities to raise stats and increase their overall skill levels in different areas. In this case, those areas are Trust, Vocals, Rhythm, Expression and Knowledge. You also have to manage their guts and stress levels – hit 100% stress and your game is over, but guts are required to do concerts and massive boost your characters shares.
The game revolves around this shares system, which essentially is a way of gauging how well your idol is doing in each city of Gameindustri, which is the universe the game is set in. You can also increase your levels of fans and haters in each place – the more fans, the more shares you’ll acquire from events and concerts.
In all honesty, the gameplay sounds more complex than it actually is. At times it became quite monotonous to trawl through whatever options I’d decided the idol needed. Getting tired of a central gameplay mechanic is never good. Concerts are the more interactive feature of the game, leaving you in charge of stage effects and camera control. You can also choose your idol’s venue, song and costume. Admittedly, the venue and costume seem to change little to nothing about the end result. After that you activate any of the three stage effects you’ve selected as the idol sings her vocaloid-esque song, whilst directing where the camera is. Moving the camera to the right areas at the right time boosts the audience’s enjoyment and gains you more fans by the end of the concert. Again, this gameplay can start to feel monotonous unless you really enjoy looking at your idol dancing/jiggling her boobs or the music.
Speaking of boobs, this game has a lot of ’em – and I mean a lot. Every character has a transformation that can be activated mid-concert that turns them into their goddess form, to really “wow” the audience. In this form, all four characters tend to show a lot of cleavage. In fact, there’s one character that shows a lot of cleavage in normal and goddess forms. This is no different to the previous series entries, except now you can zoom and get all kinds of camera angles to fulfil whatever secret weaboo desires you have. Personally I felt a bit weird using these features while their boobs were jiggling everywhere – not that I dislike a bit of boobage in games.
Sometimes it genuinely feels like the developers wanted to push this game on the sole premise that it’s fan-service, so people will lap it up. I’d like to think their fanbase isn’t dumb enough to dive on it for just that reason, but the world often likes to prove me wrong.
During my initial playthrough, I selected Noire as my idol. You can select one of the four idols, each representing a different games console in real life, which changes your story to whatever crazy campaign they go on. With Noire, the representation of Sony, a lot of it was about her own self-importance yet secret desire to feel wanted or needed. This sub-plot is often comical and really makes the game worth playing if you’re familiar with the characters, all of which are from the previous games. The four characters’ storylines interwine here and there, and you can raise your friendship level with them to have them join your idol on stage at concerts. I befriended Vert, the representation of the Xbox, and eventually managed to have her join me. Who’d have thought Sony and Xbox would get along?
Graphically the game looks great. If you’ve read my other reviews, you’ll know I’m a total sucker for well drawn anime-style visuals and this game achieves exactly that. The 2D characters and environments are all well-drawn and really suit the game’s style. During concerts, the game turns 3D and brings out well designed 3D models of the idols, all of which looking absolutely fantastic. It’s clear that a lot of care and attention was put into these character models so that their personality really shines through in the way they move. The game also has an amazing J-pop inspired soundtrack, which is good considering the concert segments have a huge focus on music. However, there are a handful of tracks that do get a little old as time goes on, but I never heard them for an extended period of time so it never really bothered me.
The plot itself is very light and simple, even being described in the first seconds of the game as “non-canon” to the actual story of the HN universe. An idol has taken all shares away from the four goddesses, which means they try to fight singing with singing to take back what’s theirs. Their first plan? To summon a “professional producer” from a different universe (the real world) to help them. Unfortunately for them, they just summon an Average Joe kind of guy, who I feel represents HN’s fanbase. The goal of the game is to have a majority of shares by the 180th day. This is definitely the kind of game where the journey is more important than the ending, but the funny dialogue throughout the story was my main incentive to keep playing. There’s tons of real world gaming references scattered through the four playable campaigns, all of which being generally funny or catching me completely off-guard.
There’s also a viewer mode that lets you “touch” the girls with the touch screen. I’m just gonna say it. This gamemode? Weird. The girls react differently to wear you touch them and you can use the Vita’s rear touchpad to grab on their rear ‘touchpad’. I didn’t experiment with this gamemode for long as it’s really not my thing.
A hugely positive aspect of Hyperdimension Neptunia: Producing Perfection (incase you’d forgotten the insanely over-the-top name) is its integration of touch controls. Not enough Vita games utilise the touch screen, but this one is completely playable through it. The only times you’ll need the buttons are during concerts, but the plot and stat-raising elements can be played with just the tip of your finger. I love that this is a feature merely because finally, finally a developer is using the touch screen effectively, rather than just as a gimmick.
There’s nothing wrong with cute and tsundere girls in games, but Hyperdimension Neptunia: Producing Perfection takes it a little too far to a point where I had to question if I was still playing it because of the gameplay or the characters, and for that I can’t say it’s worth a high score. Pick it up if you like the characters or Idol Sims in general, but if you’re a newbie to the series, I recommend starting with the very first entry to the series on PlayStation 3 (or wait for the PS Vita remake, scheduled to be released this August).